It somehow goes without saying that a successful essay must be grammatically correct. However, grammar mistakes are one of the most frequent reasons why many students fail to perform the task.
So, what are the potential grammar pitfalls to avoid?
The most common grammar mistakes can be roughly divided into five groups:
- Noun form mistakes.
Correct noun forms are of utmost importance, as nouns can perform functions of both subject and object. Key grammar areas, studying of which will help you succeed, are countable and uncountable nouns, plural forms and the use of determiners with singular nouns.
- Verb form mistakes.
The main grammar rules to remember, when it comes to verb form mistakes, are those, related to the place of auxiliary verbs in sentence, usage of state verbs, meanings of the modals and the correct use of infinitive.
- Subject-predicate agreement.
The subject-predicate agreement in English seems to be easy: subject and predicate must always agree in number. But despite this simplicity, the grammar point can present considerable difficulty. First, it is important to pay attention to the cases with a compound subject, which can be introduced by the words both, neither, etc., and still acquire the plural predicate. Second, in the American English, unlike British English and many other European languages, collective nouns take a singular predicate.
Pronouns are a part of speech that can perform functions of a noun and, therefore, are used very often. Pronouns must necessarily agree with the nouns they refer to, and it is important to remember that some indefinite pronouns can be only plural or only singular, but some of them can be both depending on the situation. It is also important to bear in mind that if there are two nouns joined by a conjunction, a pronoun that refers to them must also agree in number correctly. Always make sure that you do not use pronouns excessively, as it may be confusing.
- Forms of expressing possession.
When considering the forms of expressing possession, it is important to agree the possessive pronoun with the noun it refers to in number and not to use an apostrophe with it. However, when using the possessive case of a noun, the rules of using the apostrophe and an -s (-‘s) must be strictly observed, so make sure you put it in the right place and only when it is necessary.
So, in order to avoid the mistakes, after you have finished your essay, proofread it and use the following checklist:
- Are all the uncountable nouns in singular?
- Have I used correct determiners with singular countable nouns?
- Have I used correct auxiliaries and modal verbs?
- Does the subject agree with the predicate in person and number in all the sentences?
- Are there any pronouns which do not agree with nouns?
- Have I used the possessive forms correctly?
If the answers to these questions are positive – you are sure to have written your essay correctly, which is a great plus and your definite advantage over the other students.